The below information is written using the memories of my mother Sylvia, and from contemporary documents.
Charles Leonard Francois Ceuppens was born on the 28 August 1907 in Antwerp, Belgium. His parents were Andreas and Clementina (nee Merveille), both of whom were born in 1881. Charles had two sisters, Blanche and Marie. When Charles was about 12 years old, and after the death of his mother, the family emigrated to England and settled in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. In 1921 Andreas married Hilda Whitfield. Together Andreas and Hilda set up Whitfield Bros.(Haulage Ltd). Charles also worked for Whitfield Bros. as a mechanic. On March 17th 1934 Charles married Honor Baxter at The Parish Church in the Parish of St. Mary the Virgin, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Honor gave birth to a son Peter, on the 22nd February 1935 but sadly he only lived for a few days. A daughter Sylvia was born on 28th July 1936, followed by a son, David, on the 2nd October 1937.
After the outbreak of World War II, as a Belgian national, Charles was called up on the 30 September 1941 for his enrolment in the Belgian Armed forces. He was to be a sailor aboard the Belgian Steam Ship ‘Gandia’.
After the disaster my Grandmother Honor wrote to 2nd Officer Hubert to try to find out more details surrounding the death of her husband.
Below is the letter sent to Honor Ceuppens by 2nd officer Hubert in response to the letter from her.
The letter reads:
Lisbon 24 September 42
Dear Mrs Ceuppens,
I beg to acknowledge your letter of 14 inst. asking for some details about the circumstances in which your husband died in our lifeboat.
The only thing I can tell you is that he often had your name and the kiddies on his lips.
In the last moments however there were so many of my men in such a feverish state that I could hardly manage to deal with each of them in particular.
Your husband was one of the most outstanding and most courageous but as you say the hardships which we all had to undergo was absolutely above our resistance and it was a miracle that we were four to survive this tragedy.
You may be very proud of your husband and tell the kiddies that he was a hero.
I am myself am very proud to have known him as one of my best men and will always remember him.
I wish to express herewith my sincerest condolences and beg you to agree, Mrs Ceuppens, my respectful sympathy.
Belgian Legation Lisbon
p.s. I hope you will excuse my faulty English as this is not my own tongue.
Letter from Compagnie Maritime Belge confirming Charles Ceuppens’ death:
Below is the letter from Belgium Ministry enclosing a maritime service medal for Charles. Notice the name of his ship has been misspelled:
Obverse and reverse of Medal:
This picture of Charles and my Grandmother Honor was taken in the early 1930’s